Choose Your Post

We all know you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose (whether you can pick your friend's nose is completely up to them), but I am now giving you the opportunity to pick your blog post. I have 3 blog posts here, none of which are fit for a post of their own (we do have some standards here at BdW). To a certain people, any of the three items could be of interest. Chances are, all of them won't be of interest to everyone. With that in mind, I allow you to choose one of the follow posts to read and enjoy.

Referrer URLs: A study in how people find BdW
A Year of Underemployment
Lost Images Found: Underwater pictures from la isla bonita

Choose wisely, my friends.

Wednesday September 12 2007File under: work, travel

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Where Neon Goes to Die

The most exciting [blogable*] activity from my latest trip to Las Vegas was a visit to the neon museum, a non-profit whose mission it is to collect, restore, and display signs from Las Vegas's past. The museum is still in its beginning stages, so the tour was less of a museum and more of a tour of a fenced-in gravel lot. But that doesn't mean it was any less cool*.

So besides "museum" being somewhat of a misnomer, at least currently, the focus on "neon" also doesn't necessarily stand true. Many, if not most, of the signs in the boneyard are pre-neon, or at least pre-neon-overload. In my book, that makes it all the better, as it is reminiscent of the old timey Vegas before its over-the-top consumerism* as seen here.

Putting these two denotive-nitpickyisms aside, I can't recommend the boneyard highly enough. The place seems to come alive with the stories from the tour guide of the history of a certain casino chain's font choice and the pre-WWII rivetless construction style. And while they have kind of a discouraging photo policy, I managed to snap a few good shots. Read on for more reactions and photos.

More...
Sunday September 9 2007File under: travel, pics

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Remote Geocache Finally Found

You all know about geocaching, right? (If you don't, short version: it's a treasure hunt using global position system; long version: read this.) You all know about the time I was on that mostly deserted island in the middle of the Pacific, right? (If you don't, short version: I spent 3 months with the Nature Conservancy on Palmyra Atoll, a tiny island 1000 miles south of Hawaii; long version: ask me about it sometime, but make sure you've got at least an hour to spare.)

Good, now that we're all on the same page, I can begin. While on Palmyra, I placed a geocache. Part of the draw of geocaching, for me, is going to places you might not otherwise go. I say, the more isolated, the better (most of the time). With that thought in mind, I figured my geocache on Palmyra would be much appreciated for any nerdos like myself who happened to be passing through. What I didn't anticipate, however, is how long it would be before it was first found.

Two and half years after posting the coordinates on the internet, someone finally found Palmyra: No worries atoll. (There were two pseudo-finds before that, but none that actually involved finding the thing.) I was overjoyed to get the notification that it had been found. I was starting to think maybe the sharks had grown legs and plundered it. The finder's comments take me back to those shirtless days of swimming with sharks, obliviousness to the outside world, and total immersion in the natural world around me.

Anyway, in a shameless ploy to make this post interesting for those who don't care about geocaching*, here are some pictures from near the geocache on Palmyra: me on the rope swing at the swimming hole, solar shower* constructed by yours truly in an old dilapidated relic of a building.
Saturday September 8 2007File under: geocaching, pics

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Laughlin Nevada


In hopes of avoiding the crazy crowds (and prices) of Labor Day weekend in Las Vegas, I thought it might be fun to check out Laughlin, Nevada. Afterall, when all you are looking for is air-conditioned large spaces with flashy lights and all-you-can-eat buffets, one Nevada "resort" town is as good as any other, right?

As it turns out, Laughlin was a great place to pass a day (although any more than that and you would be pushing it). There was a pleasant path along the river that passed in and out of the casinos (which is a good thing because if you tried to walk the whole thing (a whopping half mile), you would prolly die of heat stroke). The highlight for us was probably the Colorado Belle (pictured above). It was a river boat themed casino that did a great job of giving you the impression of being on a river boat. I even felt on the edge of seasickness a few times.

To complete our tour of Laughlin, we did a few geocaches on both sides of river*. We also had lunch in a great little riverside park while watching the scads of ski-dooers ski-doo (on their ski-doos).

Yep, if you are looking for a cheap relaxing mini-vacation, give Laughlin a try. If you have any class or are looking for something fancy where your stories will hold your friends' and family's attention, you might want to keep looking. Case in point.
Wednesday September 5 2007File under: travel

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Tree House Livin

I would wager that at least half of you, at some point in your life, have wanted to live in a tree house. Perhaps the desire has waned since you were, say, 12, but let me tell you: One night in a properly built tree house (complete with inter-tree rope bridge) will rekindle that dream.

Recently, I had a chance to briefly live that dream. My travel schedule* required me to pass a night in Bellingham. In asking around for a place to stay, a friend suggested that I might sleep in his tree house. I was hesitant at first, because if it is anything like the few tree houses I have built over the years, morning would find me lying on the ground with broken 2x4s all around and an extremely sore back.

Anyhoo, after watching a lovely sunset from Boulevard Park and crashing a party where I knew absolutely no one, I made my way through the complete darkness to find this arboreal masterpiece. I can't say enough good things about the place: hard wood floors, french doors opening onto a gorgeous view of the pond, and christmas lights to complete the magical aura. It has completely rekindled my desire to spend my nights high off the ground. This is the view I had while falling asleep. (Oh, the one glitch in the evening was the puma* that was audibly stalking around the roof to find an opening to come in and devour me.)

Anyway, keep your eyes out for good tree house trees. I'm officially in the market.
Tuesday September 4 2007File under: misc

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Cheeseburger in Paradise

I've been a Jimmy Buffett fan of varying degrees for the past 10 years or so. His music has saved me from completely losing my sanity one summer when I was stuck behind a copy machine 40 hours a week, transported me away from my gloomy cubicle in the middle of a Washington winter (via radio margaritaville), and inspired real life travels to tropical places. So when it came to looking for a place to eat on the Las Vegas strip recently, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to check out the Margaritaville Cafe.

At the outset, I was somewhat skeptical of it being overly cliche and having the marketing shoved down our throats, but in the end, I was pleasantly surprised. While the music was a little loud, it was good*. There were guys on stilts walking around making balloon hats, which gave everything a kind of party atmosphere. Then, once an hour, a bikini clad lady emerged from a volcano, slid down a water slide, and ended in an extremely oversized margarita glass. It was quite a spectacle.

Besides the carnival atmosphere, the food was really good. I couldn't pass up ordering the cheeseburger in paradise. While it wasn't the best cheeseburger I've ever had, it was pretty dang good. Emily had a salad with onion and cucumber relish, bbq sauce, candied pecans, and fried chicken. While it sounded a little out there, it was actually really good.

Yep, good music, good food, and good atmosphere = a dang good evening.
Monday September 3 2007File under: travel, food

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Travel Essentials


1. A pen: This is the single most indispensable thing for me when I travel. You never know when you'll need to fill out border declaration forms, copy down phone numbers, schedules, or addresses, or give your number to a sexy flight attendant*.

2. A crossword puzzle: Not only does a crossword work great for killing those minutes spent waiting for your bus to come, your food to come, or a late friend to arrive, but it also functions as a great notepad for phone numbers, addresses, schedules, todos, travel observations, and more. I always try to carry single sided crosswords when I travel just for this reason. Looking over the notes taken on the back of them when you return from your trip is always a hoot. (Oh, and I guess Sudorkus could work in a pinch.)

3. Reading material: For the waits that are longer than a few minutes, having a book/magazine/travel guide handy can greatly help pass the time. The one thing that is guaranteed* in travel is that you will always have down time. Paperbacks works great and can often be exchanged with other travelers you meet along the way.

4. Camera: I try to keep my camera handy while traveling, but not to the point of being one of those guys*. You never know when a good shot will present itself. I take pictures not only to remember my trip later, but also to share my travels with my friends and family (via this blog of course. Who actually looks at printed pictures anymore?).

5. Ear plugs: Those $.50 yellow thingies you squish up and jam in your ears can be a lifesaver for flights with crying babies, shared hostel rooms with snorers, or time when you just want to block everything out. I rarely go anywhere with a pair of these handy.

6. Spare change: Having a dollar or two of spare change can save lots of headaches when traveling. Many public transportation systems require exact change (or at least don't give change), vending machines are often the only choice for a quick meal before hopping on a bus, some fountains simply require having a wishing penny thrown in, and for the 11 people left in the world without a cell phone*, public pay phones rarely accept dollar bills.

7. Fork and spoon: While these don't lend themselves well to air travel*, they are great to have around when exploring new places. Often times when you are trying to travel on the cheap, the grocery store provides meals. Eating yogurt with a spoon is much easier than eating it with an expired driver's license. (Using your own utensils is also a great way to avoid sending more plastic to the land fill.)
Wednesday August 29 2007File under: travel, misc

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Supertasters

I've found myself explaining it so much recently, I thought I might throw a quick post up about supertasterism*. Basically, as I understand it, it is the ability to taste certain substances that others can't, specifically some particular chemical. The chemical is very bitter to those who can taste it, therefore foods that contain this chemical are generally disliked by supertasters. Before I heard about this phenomenon, I, and often people I ate with, just figured that I was picky. After hearing about it, though, I found that many of the foods I dislike are disliked by other supertasters. While I guess it doesn't completely save me from coming across as a picky eater, it does make me feel at least somewhat validated.

Coffee, grapefruit juice, and many dark green leafy vegetables have a bitter taste to me that other people don't seem to share. Wikipedia has a list of food associated with this chemical, and a very scientific exaplanation, here. Noticeably missing from their list is broccoli which I always heard was the main culprit. (And I was really looking for an excuse to avoid my broccoli too.)

Curious as to whether you are a supertaster? Try this experiment or, for the lazier among us, this quiz.
Sunday August 26 2007File under: food, misc

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Homemade Salt

When I tell people about the local foods party (now an annual tradition!), that which I get the most comments about is the homemade salt. Because I've had so much fun making my own salt, I thought I would share with you the process so you can make your own salt too (assuming you live near a salty body of water)*.

First step is to harvest the sea water. Needless to say*, the cleaner the water the better. I try to take my water from below the surface so as to avoid floating badness, such as oil and gas, but away from the bottom where lurks grunge such as fish poop and sand. In my experience, a liter of water will make about a half cup of salt.

Next, you need to find a shallow pan. I've tried both a metal cookie sheet with shallow sides and a pyrex 9x13 baking dish. The metal cookie sheet more quickly evaporated the water, but scraping the salt away was more difficult than in the pyrex, plus, I was a little unsure about what chemicals/sealers the salt might have bonded to on the metal. My solution is to contain the water in the pyrex and let the pyrex rest on the metal sheet like this.

When you've got your pan set up, find yourself a sunny spot. Decent wind helps too. As the water evaporates, add more, little bits at a time, so the bottom of the pan is continually covered. On average, I would pour about one cup of new water in per day, depending on the sun and the wind. After about a week, the salt build-up on the bottom of the pan starts to be significant. In my experience, the sun has a hard time completely evaporating all the water leaving you with damp, hard to spread salt. My solution is to throw the near finished pan of salt (just the pyrex, not the cookie sheet) in the oven after it's been used. The residual heat is more than enough to finish off the drying process.

Presto, now you've got some homemade sea salt.
Thursday August 23 2007File under: food

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Local Foods and Local Fun

I'm pleased to announce that this year's local foods party was a resounding success, although anyone who stopped by knows that already. Round about 30 people contributed to a menu of over a dozen dishes of all* local ingredients. Recipes and tips were exchanged as well as origin and often times history of the ingredients ("The currants were from the neighbor up the street and the apples from my own tree.", etc.). It was truly delicious food for the body and, for me, food for the soul.

For those of you unfamiliar, a bit of history: last year I conceived of the idea of having a collaborative meal where all ingredients were from the local area, as arbitrarily defined as a 100-mile radius (this is not a new idea and has been gaining lots of media attention recently). The idea is to understand where our food comes from, appreciate what northwest Washington has to offer, capitalize on the bountiful season, and do it all in an inspiring, educational, and fun way. The party went extremely well and drummed up much enthusiasm and discussion. (A write-up of last year's party including pictures and a menu can be found here).

This year's party wouldn't have been nearly as successful if it hadn't been for all who those who contributed and participated. Being able to share my enthusiasm for local foods and getting such a positive response is what makes it so much fun. Also, a big thanks to Andrew and Ma for the pictures (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

Hey, I got an idea: let's do it again next year!
Monday August 20 2007File under: Anacortes, food

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